"We have four more games to go and we will try to win all four of them."
This was Trinidad & Tobago coach Russell Latapy's plain statement following Wednesday night's gut-wrenching 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory over El Salvador which came via an eighth minute Cornell Glen goal at an almost packed Hasely Crawford Stadium.
"We know it's going to be four Cup Finals. It was five, but we got this one out of the way. We will think about Honduras and start preparing for them and hopefully go there and get a result as well."
Looking on in the stands while his former assistant picked up a first victory in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, was former head coach Francisco Maturana, who traveled from Colombia to see the match. Asked how he has been since quitting the job on April 9 amidst a storm of criticism, Maturana said: "Am good. Today am fine. Tomorrow? Who knows."
Though not receiving as much stick as Maturana did for doing the same thing, Latapy, also chose to give five home-based players a start-Trent Noel, Keon Daniel, Clyde Leon and a pair of relative newcomers, Radanfah Abu Bakr and Keston Williams. At a media briefing after the match, the 41-year-old former Porto midfielder said that the players he picked to start were the ones who were showing him something in the training camp before the match.
"Players are going to play based on form. The form that I see in the training sessions, players are going to play based on that. And that is why the team is going to change on occasions," Latapy said. "The squad that I picked for tonight's game was the one that I thought would have won us the game, and fortunately they did. Every single player from Trinidad & Tobago is in contention if they can help the team to go forward. Everybody is going to get their opportunity. So, I will say to some of the upcoming players, if they play their football, then they will make the decision for me."
Latapy was pleased to get three points and also with keeping a clean sheet. He also defended the use of young players Abu Bakr and Defence Force central defender Keston Williams whom he used as a left back.
Latapy commended them for coming through a pressure situation and explained that the introduction of veteran Dwight Yorke was a tactical move late in the match.
"We have a lot of players who are getting to an age where we have to start to blood the young players. So once those players come to front and show that they are capable and they have the potential to play, I will like to give some of these players the opportunity," Latapy said.
"Dwight came on because as I saw they (El Salvador) were overloading the midfield and I thought we were playing with two in midfield which was Trent (Noel) and Chrisie (Birchall) at the time and we were getting overrun a bit. So, we put on an extra one in midfield and take off an extra one (Keon Daniel) from the wing. We could still use Carlos down the right side and we would try and defend the left side as best as possible."
Meanwhile, El Salvador's coach Carlos de los Cobos felt they were unlucky not to pick up at least a point. The Mexican felt that his side dominated the second half, and had many chances, but simply did not score.
T&T Player Ratings:
Clayton Ince (Goalkeeper) The obvious Man-of-the-Match. If T&T reach South Africa, it will be because of some of the saves "Incey" made against El Salvador. Has continued the excellent form he showed against Mexico.
Carlos Edwards (Right midfield) Worked his socks off against El Salvador. Showed that when on his game he is undoubtedly the best winger in CONCACAF. Tends to hit too many floated crosses, and needs to whip some in towards the strikers.
Cornell Glen (Striker) Best game for national team since World Cup 2006. Got a little over-enthusiastic, and had he looked for his strike partner a few times instead of shooting, would have gotten T&T another goal.
Keon Daniel (left midfield) Too good a player for these sub-par performances. Everyone-especially this reporter-wanted Daniel to come good. Like the West Indies cricketers, Daniel is full of potential. But, he fears physical activity. He doesn't tackle and only pretends to mark.
He can dribble, and has one of sweetest left-feet in the business, but doesn't take on anyone. How many crosses has he swung in at the big striker Kenwyne Jones? So, why is he a left-midfielder again?
Time for Daniel to put in a full shift for the team or be dropped permanently. Nothing personal. Make way for a Kendell Jagdeosingh, who may not be as gifted, but will give solid performances in the same position.
Radanfah Abu Bakr (Central defense) The future for T&T in the position if he continues to develop. Admitted to having some nervous moments before the home crowd. Made some mistakes but also put in timely tackles.
Keston Williams (Left back) A solid centre-back for many years with Defence Force in the Pro League and asked to play left-back by Latapy. Played well in first half, but had no help in the second period and was under the gun. Latapy admitted in the media conference afterwards that he sacrificed the left side and strengthened the middle when El Salvador poured men into midfield. He hoped that the left side would hold the best it could. Williams thus came under real second half pressure.
Dennis Lawrence (Central defence) Captained the team but did not take command at the back. Most times, left newcomer Abu Bakr to shoulder most of the responsibility by being the last man at the back.
Clyde Leon (Defensive midfield) Did a lot of work first half. Has a good shot and needs to take a crack at goal from atop the box more often. Show him a Kerry Jamerson video.
Silvio Spann (Right-back) Good showing. Worked well with Carlos Edwards.
Trent Noel (Central midfield) Looked good early on but was walking midway through first half. Perhaps some fitness issues, but also needs to pace himself, and the game.
Kenwyne Jones (Striker) Still no goals. But refreshing that he is willing to put in some physical work for the team. Still needs a better first touch.
Jason Scotland (Striker) Little playing time. But it was disappointing that an English Premier League prospect could not hold up the ball.
Chris Birchall (Defensive midfield) Thought he would get a red card. A little bit over-enthusiastic. Hard worker, but didn't make much impression on coming on.
Dwight Yorke (central midfield) Brought on to calm things. But El Salvador were in top gear by then, and appeared too quick for him. Put in one telling tackle.